Human Exceptionalism

Family-Supported Suicide Risks Others

It used to be that families and mental health professionals were the last bastions helping despairing people (for whatever reasons) stay in life.

These days, even that bastion is crumbling. Psychiatrists in the Netherlands and Belgium euthanize patients, and a strong minority of USA mental health professionals support the concept of “rational suicide.”

Families also support their loved ones in self-killing. In Belgium, a joint euthanasia killing of an elderly couple was arranged by their own son because, well care giving would have been difficult.

Brittany Maynard’s widower and mother supported her suicide.

And now, another one of a non terminally ill cancer patient named Jeffrey Spector flew to a Swiss suicide clinic to be made dead.

While the family tried to talk him out of it (according to the Telegraph), they have now issued a statement of 100% support. From The Journal i.e. story:

Jeffrey contacted Dignitas [suicide clinic] shortly after his diagnosis, as he was absolutely clear in his mind that when the time came he wanted to end his own life with dignity.

He was particularly clear that he did not want to live a life in which he was paralysed and reliant on his family to care for him.

Earlier this year, Jeffrey’s condition deteriorated to such an extent that he believed he would soon be permanently and completely paralysed. Accordingly, he made an appointment to go to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end his own life. Whilst this was, of course, a difficult and painful time, as a family we supported and respected Jeffrey’s decision 100%.

On Wednesday 20 May 2015, Jeffrey travelled to Zurich for that very purpose and on Friday 22 May 2015, Jeffrey ended his own life in exactly the manner and at exactly the time he wanted. Jeffrey ended his life with dignity and control which was his overwhelming desire.

But this isn’t only about them.

There are others watching–some of them despairing people thinking of suicide–who look at such statements and think, “I should help out my family too by becoming dead.”  

Indeed, Spector said that was one of the very reasons he decided to commit suicide, “because it is in my family’s best interests.”

That meme–putting oneself out of the family’s misery–is gaining traction. A San Francisco Chronicle editorial in support of legalizing assisted suicide cites “helping the family” as one of the reasons (my emphasis) such a move would be “humane:”

It affords patients an option of controlling their future on their own terms instead of putting themselves and their families through a torturous final path.

When we validate suicide, we tempt others into it.

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